At 17 I wanted to be a music teacher.

Sounds like a pretty noble profession. Looking back at my life I had some good accomplishments by the age of 17. I was a talented runner in cross country and track and I was also pretty good at music. Nothing cool like a guitar player or a drummer in a rock band. I was a tuba and saxophone player and I also dabbled in some other percussion ensembles as well. I had a great music teacher and some great coaches that inspired me to become who I am today. Most of my senior year of high school was spent in the band room or on the track. I won numerous awards and championships at both and decided I would keep doing this through college and maybe the rest of my life! If only life came with a crystal ball!

I ended up going to a small private college with a reputable music program. I found out quickly that the music programs conflicted with my athletics, so I found alternatives within the music department that allowed me to continue doing the things I had done all throughout high school. Somehow I was able to balance my schedule between training for running, playing in the jazz band, concert band, and singing in the choir along with the full schedule that a liberal arts college expects you to have.

I was met with conflict within days of starting my first semester. I was known for my talent in drum corps and highly recruited for marching band. Seeing as how my principle instrument was tuba it was expected that I would be a part of it, however it conflicted with my athletic schedule so I chose choir in it’s place. This was a new experience for me and the chairman of the music department was behind me 100%. I wanted to try something new. I actually impressed him with my vocal ability, it was a but raw, but I was willing to work hard at it so he gave me a spot. I thought it would be smooth sailing from there. I was wrong!

The head of the brass department did not agree with my decision at all. Neither did my private lesson teacher at the college. I auditioned on tuba and they wanted me to play only that instrument for my ensembles. They were even a little uneasy with my decision to play bari sax in the jazz band. The marching band blow up was a real dramatic issue especially for other kids in the brass department. I earned a bad name and a bad reputation, not because I was lousy but because I wouldn’t conform to the way the people running the brass department wanted things done.

It only got worse. The concert band audition I got bumped to last chair out of 6 tuba players, which didn’t bother me really because at the end of the day we all play the same part anyway. It was done to put my ego in line. In brass class when we were learning how to play all of the other instruments the brass head would still get his snide comments in there. “How come someone with your talent is wasting your time studying music at our school.” Seriously the guy said this in front of everyone.

Even my private lesson teacher got in on the act. He didn’t understand why my approach to the instrument was different. I didn’t sound enough like a tuba to him when I played and my technique was all wrong. Although I could play some of the most advanced solo pieces out there proficiently he wanted to start over with beginner method books so I could develop what he called a better tuba sound. I was insulted. I worked hard to develop a unique sound and to make that instrument sing and shine instead of sounding like a tuba in a Sousa band. I couldn’t understand why the guy wouldn’t nurture something unique. I used to come in and sight read the method books upside down. I never practiced that material. I would play it my way. My “lessons” were 10 minutes playing and 20 minutes lecturing about why I would never be a good tuba player.

But those days are long behind me. I don’t know if I would have made it as a music teacher anyway especially with all the cuts going on to school programs these days. I do find it strange that I could be so passionate and inspired about music and within a few months time to be completely turned off by it. My second year of college I went a whole other route, no more music. I cut my college career short one semester later. To think of what might have been if the people I entrusted with my future hadn’t squashed a dream.

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3 thoughts on “At 17 I wanted to be a music teacher.

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this story on your blog! I’m working on getting my masters degree on music education, and it’s stories like these that remind me why. I want to develop ways for students to explore music like you did. I hope you still explore your tuba playing. It seems like you really did enjoy it.

    • Thanks for reading! I did continue to play and teach until the fall of 2007. I was fortunate enough to have won awards for my playing and to have had the chance to work with some great ensembles including the United States Naval Academy Drum & Bugle corps as a brass instructor. Despite having not played in quite a few years now my name and reputation are still very good. I still get offers to play with different ensembles, but being out of practice I generally recommend the gigs to my former students or other people I have helped teach or mentor in the past. It’s always a good thing to give opportunities to people that may never have the chance to play in the groups that I have. Best of luck with your masters!

  2. Pingback: Projects of years past: Worth Noting | The Re-reinvention of Myself

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